Since 1998, when Pgt race TTKSK (Ug99) was first identified in Uganda, seven variants in the Ug99 race group have been reported in nine countries in eastern and southern Africa. Five of these variants (TTKSK, TTKST, TTTSK, PTKSK, and PTKST) have been observed in Kenya. Increased surveillance efforts in recent years have enabled detection of new virulence combinations that threaten wheat production. Three new variants in the Ug99 race group were identified from samples collected in 2013 and 2014 in Kenya. A new race, TTHST that is identical to TTKST but avirulent on Sr30 (IT 2-), was identified from a sample collected in the Central Rift Valley Region in 2013. In 2014, two new races, TTKTK and TTKTT, were identified from a total of nine samples (six collected from cv. Robin, and one from each of Eagle10, NJRBW II, and barley) in multiple regions. These two races are of special concern as both are virulent on SrTmp, a gene that is effective against all previously known races in the Ug99 group. Resistance gene SrTmp is postulated to be the source of TTKSK resistance in cv. Robin (released in 2011 in Kenya, also postulated to have Sr2) and cv. Digalu (released in 2005 in Ethiopia). The presence of new races with virulence on SrTmp may explain the high levels of stem rust severity observed in wheat cultivar Robin in Kenya in the past two years. Genotypic relationships between these new races and known races in the Ug99 race group are being characterized using SNP markers. Cultivars and elite breeding lines from Kenya, CIMMYT, and the US are being evaluated for seedling reactions to race TTKTT. With the detection of these new races, there are a total of eight variants in the Ug99 race group in Kenya.
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Limited but targeted stem rust race characterization was undertaken in Kenya in 2004 and 2005 which led to the detection of Ug99 present in Kenya and designation of Ug99 as race TTKS (based on North American stem rust race nomenclature system). Further surveillance in 2006 and 2007 detected variants of TTKS with virulence on Sr24 (TTKST) and Sr36 (TTTSK), respectively. Stem rust surveillance was undertaken at an extended level in 2008 and 2009 within predominant wheat growing regions of Kenya. Three hundred and sixty farms were surveyed from regional districts of Naivasha, Narok, Nakuru, Laikipia, Meru, Uasin-Gishu, Nandi, Elgeyo and Trans-Nzioa, during 2008 main season (May to September and December). The information from farmers indicated that more than 95% of these farms were sprayed with fungicides. Despite the use of fungicides, stem rust was detected in 67% of the surveyed farms. Stem rust ranged from trace amount -100% in severity with minimum infection in Naivasha district (40%) and maximum in Narok district (90%). Yellow rust was detected in 22% of the farms. Out of one hundred and twenty-six stem rust samples collected, 37 and 39 (a total of 76 ) samples were sent to Cereal Disease Laboratory (CDL) Minnesota, USA and Cereal Research Laboratory of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada respectively, for race typing using the respective differentials used by these labs. From the 39 collections sent to Canada, 17 (43%) survived, of which majority were typed to TTKST (65%) followed by TTKSK (18%), PTKST (12%) and mixture of TTKST and TTKSK (5%). The CDL typed vast majority of pathotypes as TTKSK (84%) followed by TTKST and TTTSK (7% each). The combined results of two labs indicated that predominant frequency in Kenya in 2008 was TTKSK (51%) followed by TTKST (31%), PTKST (6%) and TTTSK (6%). The frequency of TTKST significantly increased in 2008 compared to 2007 which is not surprising, given that Sr24 carrying wheat cultivar KS Mwamba is cultivated on large acreage in Kenya. In 2009, 262 farms were surveyed from regional districts of Narok, Laikipia, Nyandarua, Meru, Uasin-Gishu, Nandi, Elgeyo and Trans-Nzioa. The 2009 season experienced heavy drought in many areas. Nevertheless, stem rust was detected in 79% of the farms with disease severity ranging from trace to 100%. Yellow rust was detected in 15% of the farms. Stem rust infection ranged from 0 to 100% with minimum infection in Nyandarua (18%), Laikipia (42%) and maximum in Uasin-Gishu and Elgeyo (100% each). Out of seventy-four stem rust samples collected, 55 samples were sent to Canada for race typing. Only 20% of the samples survived, of which majority were typed to TTKST (50%), PTKST (34%) and PTKSK (16%). Borlaug Global Rust Initiative 2010 Technical Workshop / Poster Abstracts 7 The 2009 results did not depict real situation of predominance of pathogenic variability because of small sample size, however it provided fair indication that race TTKST is still the most prevalent. This information generated on the distribution of stem rust races, and the incidence of stem rust is important for anticipatory breeding and release of cultivars with effective sources of resistance in Kenya, and at same time mitigating global threat of stem rust by reducing intensity of stem rust inoculum in East Africa.
The East Africa program of the Borlaug Global Rust Initiative (BGRI) was launched to reduce the scale and scope of wheat stem rust epidemics in Kenya and Ethiopia, and to mitigate the global threat of virulent and dangerous rust races originating from this region. Since the launch in 2005, the screening facilities in Kenya and Ethiopia have helped to determine the extent of the world’s vulnerability to stem rust race Ug99 and its variants, identify diverse sources of resistance including adult plant resistance based on minor genes, and catalyze a comprehensive global response, leading to expanded awareness, expanded research and breeding activities, and resource mobilization. This paper reviews the role and achievements of the eastern African screening facilities along with the opportunities and challenges faced by the facilities during the ongoing global response to the emergence of Ug99 and its variants.